May 9th, 2012
By Jennifer Olin, BSN, RN
Saturday, May 12, 2012, will be Florence Nightingale’s 192nd birthday—and it will be the first day of a new career for 18 graduates of Loyola University New Orleans’ post-Master of Science in Nursing (M.S.N.) to Doctor of Nursing Practice (D.N.P.) program. Wow, that’s a mouthful.
Actually, it’s a plateful. Another first is that these 18 new D.N.P.s are the first graduating class from this program. The School of Nursing has the only D.N.P. program in the state and was recently singled out as one of the best online graduate programs in the nation. It was one of only five nursing schools in the country, and the only Jesuit institution, to receive an honor roll designation in this area from U.S. News & World Report.
The ranking collected data from 458 regionally accredited institutions that provided nursing education at either the master’s or doctorate level. Those schools that provided at least 80 percent of their curriculum online were then considered for the ranking.
There are four separate indicator rankings for online master's of nursing or doctorate of nursing degree programs: admissions selectivity, faculty credentials and training, student engagement and accreditations, and student services and technology. In order to make the honor roll, a school must place in the top third of three of the four categories.
The publication ranked Loyola number one for student services and technology, ahead of other major institutions such as Loyola University Chicago, Duke University, Arizona State, University of Florida, and St. Louis University. Loyola also placed a strong second in the country for faculty credentials and training, while finishing seventh for teaching practices and student engagement.
“This synergy, ceaseless effort, and drive for excellence in online education have catapulted the School of Nursing to this top ranking,” said Ann H. Cary, Ph.D., director of the School of Nursing at Loyola. “We are committed to retaining the trust of our students and employers in an effort to graduate students who excel in critical thinking and strategy, as well as caring for the whole person and organizational culture. Our graduates change the lives of generations receiving health and nursing care and are dedicated to advancing the health of the public.”
And Another First
Nurses from across the United States converged on the Loyola campus just last week as orientation into the state’s first and only program offering nurses currently holding a bachelor’s degree (B.S.N.) a chance to earn a D.N.P. The School of Nursing welcomed 40 nursing candidates to town for a three-day orientation before they begin the three-year, 78-credit hour, post-baccalaureate to D.N.P. program.
Before the B.S.N to D.N.P curriculum was offered, nurses in Louisiana wanting to earn a D.N.P. degree were required to first obtain a master’s degree. Now, nurses with a bachelor’s can receive their D.N.P. degree by completing the program, which makes them eligible for certification as a family nurse practitioner (F.N.P.).
Loyola has been developing and promoting the program and its curriculum for more than a year, and according to Cary. The B.S.N. to D.N.P. program was created as a way to meet the demands of a changing health care field. “Right now, there is a shortage of primary health care providers, and one of the ways to address the shortage is to have nurse practitioners step up and fill that need,” Cary said. Nationwide, the anticipated shortfall of primary-care providers by 2015 is 29,800. “By offering the post-baccalaureate to D.N.P. program, we make the nurse practitioner field more attractive. Last week’s orientation marked a positive, tangible first step in our efforts to put more quality nurse practitioners into the field.”
In Loyola’s Home State
Louisiana residents have some of the poorest health outcomes in the nation and the state’s health care spending is among the highest in the nation.
In 2005, flooding from Hurricane Katrina not only destroyed New Orleans hospitals and healthcare clinics but washed away primary care providers. “It was reported to be the largest migration of physicians away from an area in U.S. history,” said Dr. Karen DeSalvo, steering committee member of Crescent City Beacon Community project and president of the Louisiana Health Care Quality Forum.
Before the hurricane, Louisiana, like most other states already had a nursing shortage. Four months after Katrina, the Louisiana State Board of Nursing reported1,600 Louisiana registered nurses sought licensure in other states, out of a total 47,087 licensed on the day of the storm.
Flash forward to March of this year when the Louisiana Center for Nursing, a division of the Louisiana State Board of Nursing, revealed there continues to be a substantial need for nurses in Louisiana following the results of a Nursing Workforce Demand Study. The study included a survey of more than 600 employers in Louisiana and included all levels of nursing personnel needs including: registered nurses (RNs), advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), licensed practical nurses (LPNs), and nursing assistants (NAs).
Adding doctoral trained nurse practitioners to the mix of primary care providers can only lessen the burden on the state’s overtaxed healthcare system and underserved population.
Other Nursing Honors
The School of Nursing also announced Jeri Buckley of Naples, Fla. as the winner of the Jonas Center for Nursing Excellence national scholarship, which will pay Buckley’s tuition to attend the program.
The Jonas Center is philanthropy dedicated to building the effectiveness of America’s professional nurses. “Nurses are the backbone of the American healthcare system and underappreciated by the public. It is essential that we support nurses and the vital role they play in our hospitals, schools, clinics, nursing homes and on the battlefield, said Donald Jonas, co-founder, Jonas Center for Nursing Excellence.
There are only 250 Jonas Scholars in the United States, and Loyola is the only nursing school in Louisiana to successfully compete for this national scholarship.
All in all, not a bad couple of weeks for nursing students at every level at Loyola University New Orleans. To round out the festivities, 2012 is actually the 100th anniversary of the school’s opening its doors. That’s a whole lot to celebrate during this, National Nurses Week 2012.